Tropical coral reefs
Avoided loss (urgent threat)
The coral reefs in Tela Bay, on the Honduran mainland, are some of the most ecologically unique in the Caribbean. This makes their protection an urgent conservation priority. The health of a coral reef is typically measured by the percentage of its surface covered in live, healthy coral; the Caribbean has a regional average of well under 20% whereas the reefs of Tela Bay tend to be greater than 60%, with close to 100% cover not unusual at some sites. This is despite environmental conditions within the bay not being traditionally favourable to coral reefs, such as high turbidity, and significant freshwater and nutrient runoff from the local town and agriculture.
In addition to the high cover of coral, the bay is home to one of the last remaining dense populations of Diadema antillarum, a keystone species of sea urchin historically vital to Caribbean reef health but which almost went extinct due to a sudden disease outbreak in the 1980s. It also boasts unusually impressive populations of critically endangered elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) whilst there have been sightings of numerous charismatic species on and around the reefs including fin whales, manatees and several species of shark. The bay was designated as a Marine Protected Area in 2018 but there has been no active management to date. This project would use biodiversity credit income to improve active protection for the bay, with a major focus on developing local infrastructure to improve the quality of life for local communities in a synergistic way with environmental conservation, such as introducing much needed water treatment and developing new income streams around ecotourism. Tela Bay has already developed into a wildlife centre thanks to the presence of Lancetilla Botanical Gardens (one of the largest anywhere in the tropics) and Tela Marine’s impressive aquarium which offers free tours to help build pride amongst Hondurans in their marine ecosystems.